Dane Men, English Men And Broken Men

The fetid, charnel stench of the bloodied cadaver brought tears to the slumping Wilful's eyes and a self-directed disgust to his heart. It brought the need to claw himself till he could no longer, and it brought a grief whose acquaintance he could have done without. In his heart he knew he didn't have the right to detriment, but he suffered himself all the same.

There was a righteousness to his slump, a sad and terrible truth. It was that the depressed silence shouldn't have had been his and that his unscathed appearance should have been a dead man's dream. For he'd survived.

The sentiment did nothing to quench the growing emptiness.

There was an injustice in his eyes, a fatal miscalculation. Beck and the rest, Tymon, Myka- heathen and Dane had he been, yet he'd charged all the same, Ebb, Sim the Tanner's son and Fullden.

Nothing but mud and dirt.

He'd buried them all, chafed his hands raw and broken skin on the rough English soil for which he should have died defending. Slit the neck of a still living and delirious Beck to quieten the screams, failed to exhume the still living Tymon, who'd been, unbeknownst to Wil merely unconscious; the Humber, effusing the stink of bowl discharge, now sat thick with his blood, for he'd waded in to recover the floating, bloated remains of Ebb and scions sprang from the tears he'd shed upon discovering the poorly blood eagled corpses of Sim and Fullden.

He cursed himself. Sometimes silently and sometimes aloud. To his god, the Dane lords and the stygian denizens from the corners of his mind. He cursed himself for his cowardliness, for hiding instead of meeting the Dane's on the fields. He cursed Ivar, Halfdene and Hubba, the legendary Ragnar for siring them and the rich English soil which called for plunder.

He looked down at the man at his feet, the corpse attired in the colours of the Dane. He'd killed one, oh joy, oh joy. A pity he had been one of King Ælla's spies.

Killing all the wrong men. His rationality dissipated beneath the weight of the guilt.

'In all fairness, he was going to run us through,' said his mind, 'We just realized who was who too late.'

'Then again it would've been fair for us to go,' said his heart 'It's our fault that Sim won't ever pay off his farm's debt and Beck marry his love. It is our fault they lie, twisted and dead beneath the earth of the living.'

A chant began, an ululation from his every limb, every organ and the very fibre of his being.

'Our fault,' it said, 'Our fault'.

Wilful clutched at his head, staggering, screaming. Our fault. He didn't fully comprehend his actions when he looped the rope across the branch or when he tied the knot. Didn't realise what he intended when he'd pushed the noose down to his neck. Only realised he'd made a mistake once he hung.